MLB: Playing the Role of Oddsmaker To Find Value
by Nick Parsons
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With the NHL and NBA playoffs underway, and MLB kicking into full gear, it is no doubt an exciting, but also daunting time for your average sports bettor.
To help ease your stress, here is an introduction to a simple handicapping technique that ensures we have a slight edge over the books every time we place a wager. Basically it involves playing the role of oddsmaker.
Today, most sports bettors understand the concept of value, and will create their own line before the actual line is released by Costa Rica and Vegas. Using the final Miami Heat game of the season on April 13th against the Raptors as an example:
Lebron, Bosh and Wade are not expected to play, but you still had the Heat listed as -4 to -7 point favorites, books have a line of -5 in favor of the Raptors guess it is time to place a wager.
However this is only half the process in making a quality value wager. In truth we should be making two lines:
1.) Our own true line of how we feel the game will turn out
2.) A line that we feel would split money evenly
Making line number two is often absent from the handicapper’s repertoire but it is very important because it is a good indicator of how accurately we have capped a game and how accurately we are reading the public mindset. If our read on the betting public is correct, then we can determine whether or not we have a value wager.
Every handicapper should be putting themselves in the shoes of oddsmakers and thinking “what line would I release in order to split money evenly?” This is important because it is the oddsmakers duty to split the money, collect the juice and not worry about the results.
Countless stories on ESPN and Yahoo talk about the day the books lost a lot of money on a game or made a killing off the public. While this makes for interesting reads and trap games do occur, these instances are rare and it is not the way books stay in business.
If our line does not match the one released by bookmakers, then they know something that we do not, or we have handicapped the game incorrectly and should therefore pass.
Listed below are two cases using the technique of making two lines and determining whether or not we should make a wager.
April 5th Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians
The Red Sox have just been swept by the Rangers and now they go up against minor league journeyman Josh Tomlin, a pitcher we feel will have breakthrough season. The Indians are coming off a 7-1 win and we feel that they should be about -110 to -125 favorites vs Boston.
However if we were a sportsbook we would list Boston as -140 to -170 favorites. We know that they are a public team and that many will feel that they are due for their first win of the season.
Line 1: (our actual line) Indians -110 to -125
Line 2: (line we would set to split money) Red Sox -140 to -170
Actual Line: Red Sox -160
Action: Make a Wager
We feel that Josh Tomlin is undervalued and will put in a strong performance. Our line to split money matches the actual posted line so we have a good read on the public.
Result: Indians 3, Red Sox 1
April 9th Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers
Matt Garza had a rough outing in his Cubs debut allowing 12 hits in a 5-4 loss to the Pirates. We feel that he will come up big in his second start against the Brewers and it does not hurt that the Cubs will have a bit a momentum from their 7-4 win of the Brews in the previous night. We have the Cubs at -110 to -120 favorites.
If we were a sportsbook we would set the line at Cubs -130 to -140 because they are a public team and Matt Garza is a public pitcher and the Cubs just recently beat the Brewers.
Line 1: (our actual line) Cubs -110 to -120
Line 2: (line we would set to split money) Cubs -130 to -140
Actual Line: Brewers -105
Action: No bet
Guess we are not giving Brewers starter Chris Narveson credit or perhaps falling into the trap of Matt Garza love. Books are confident that there will be slight action in favor of the Brews. Our read on the game is completely incorrect, time to pass.
Result: Brewers 6, Cubs 0
Whether a beginner or veteran, every handicapper should get into this habit of creating two lines. It is a simple and effective way of determining whether or not we have value on a game. And betting for value is the only way that we can truly make long term profit.
By Nick Parsons: with help from research assistant Myles Valentin
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